Niall Patton talks about surgical intervention for floaters


Floaters are small pieces of debris that ‘float’ in the vitreous humour of the eye. They occur behind the lens (the transparent window through which light enters the eye), and in front of the retina (the light sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye).

Vitreous humour is a clear, jelly-like substance that fills the space in the middle of the eyeball. It is 99% water and 1% substances that help to maintain the shape of the vitreous.



Floaters appear in the front of the eye, and can occur in a number of different shapes and sizes. For example, they may appear as:

  • tiny black dots,

  • small shadowy dots,

  • larger ‘cloud-like’ spots

  • long, narrow strands

Floaters occur in the vitreous jelly of the eye, which is usually clear. Floaters cast shadows on to the retina and it is the shadows that someone who has floaters is able to see.

Floaters most commonly develop as your eyes get older, as part of the natural ageing process.



Floaters are harmless and do not usually interfere with your vision. Sometimes, you may have floaters without noticing them. This is because your brain constantly adapts to changes in your vision, and learns to ignore floaters so that they do not affect your vision. However, in a significant minority of patients, floaters can cause visual disturbances that affect their qulaity of vision. If this persists for a significant period of time, then treatment can be offered to these patients.



If floaters have been present for a significant period of time, and their persistance causes distress to a particular patient, a surgical vitrectomy (removal of the vitreous with the associated floaters) offers an excellent outcome in the vast majority of patients. Studies have shown that this removes the symptoms if floaters in up to 99% of patients. Niall Patton offers this procedure to patients provided they are suitable and appropriately counselled. To enquire regarding a consultation, fill in the contact form or contact his private secretary.



Rarely, a few surgeons offer laser treatment for vitreous floaters in the UK. Whilst this treatment is simple and easy to perform,  it only improves patients' symptoms in approximately 66% of patients (compared with 99% for vitrectomy). In addition, the risks associated with this unproven procedure make it controversial, and for these reasons (in keeping with the vast majority of UK Ophthalmologists), Niall Patton does not perform this procedure.